The Art and Power of Storytelling: Leading You to a Great Career

Fictional narratives have their value in entertainment, but storytelling is also a must-have career skill. It is one of the most powerful tools you can use to connect and engage with others. 

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When most of us think of stories, we usually think of books or movies. Fictional narratives have their value in entertainment, but storytelling is also a must-have career skill. It is one of the most powerful tools you can use to connect and engage with others. 

As a student, it would be a great idea to start developing the art of storytelling now, as this will enable you to utilise the full power of storytelling throughout the entire trajectory of your career. This article will explain how to use storytelling in your career, the power of storytelling, and how to tell powerful stories.

Storytelling in Your Career

There are several different types of stories you can use to help you in your career. Possibly one of the most frequent stories you will tell throughout your working life is your career story. Career stories are a staple of job interviews, but they can also be beneficial for pitches, meetings, or any other time you introduce yourself in a professional setting. Briefly, a career story is a short chronological synopsis of who you are, what you do, and your key strengths. 

Generally, a logical career story should follow this structure:
  1. Where have you been?
    Explain how you became interested in your career and started in your field – you can give your educational background if it is relevant, especially if you are a student applying for an internship or graduate role.  

  2. Where are you now?
    Summarise your recent experience, accomplishments, learning curves, or changes you have experienced in your career. Emphasise the defining moments of your career so far.

  3. Where do you want to go?
    End your story by connecting the previous two points and show that your immediate goal is the natural next step of your career and then explain how it aligns with your long-term goals as a whole. It can also be a good idea to summarise your strengths and values. 

For example, in an internship interview, your immediate goal is to obtain the role you are applying for. In this case, you would explain how your university degree and experience have brought you to this role and how the internship might fit in with your long-term plans after uni. On the other hand, if you are communicating your career story in a pitch to your team or a client, your immediate goal might be to initiate an idea or project. You would then explain how this aligns with the company or client’s long-term goals and the value the project will bring them. 

A good career story will help your audience better understand and connect to you. It should summarise the value you can bring and demonstrate your passion. 
There are several other types of stories that you might find helpful throughout your career. Some of these include:
  • Purpose Stories: used to express an overarching idea by painting the bigger picture.
  • Example Stories: used to illustrate a specific strategy used to overcome a problem. (Example stories can also be tailored to teach or inspire audiences).
  • What If/Imagine Stories: used to suggest a change or new ideas.
  • Everyday Stories: used to relate to audiences. 
It’s a good idea to have a range of stories ready in your toolbox as they are helpful for various scenarios throughout your career. Good storytelling will help you stand out during interviews and networking events. During presentations, pitches, and meetings telling a story will help you engage and persuade your audience. Once you start to take on leadership roles, storytelling is an effective tool for motivating your team and building rapport. 

The Power of Storytelling


Stories are persuasive 

At some point in any career, you will have to persuade others of the value of your ideas. Storytelling can be an excellent tool for this as it has a strong influence over attitudes and behaviour. A study conducted at Princeton University suggested that as someone listened to a story unfold, their brainwaves started to synchronise with those of the storyteller - the better they understood the story and the more closely matched the brain patterns were. Storytelling is highly effective in encouraging your audience to see your perspective and understand its value. For example, if you want your team to try out one of your ideas, try telling them a story about an instance where the execution of that (or a similar) idea led to a successful outcome. 

Stories are understandable

Storytelling often presents complex information more comprehensible. Our brains use stories to organise information and orient ourselves with it. Human brains are wired to recognise and understand patterns to learn new ideas. These patterns are usually offered by stories, as they involve combined events built on cause and effect. 

Stories are engaging

In modern society, we are constantly bombarded by a plethora of information where only the most engaging messages are likely to be remembered. Stories are excellent at grabbing and maintaining an audience’s attention, which means information relayed through a story is more likely to be understood and remembered. Stories often provide a more stimulating experience than facts alone. An engaging story also becomes more transmissible, as listeners remember the story, keep thinking about and maybe even tell others. This can help get your idea across to a large team or even for networking.

How to Tell Great Stories


Identify a purpose
Having a clear message or conclusion can give your story clarity, making it more intelligible and memorable. Once you identify the central purpose of your story, you can then ensure the parts relate directly to that purpose, keeping it clear and concise. For example, in a job interview, the purpose of your story might be to show how you will be the best fit for the role.

Keep it concise 
Most people have short attention spans. You should try your best to limit your story to the essential facts. This ensures that your key points are heard and retained by your audience. In most cases, you should try to limit it to five or even two minutes long to ensure your audience stays focused. 

Be authentic   
In interviews especially, it might be tempting to exaggerate and embellish parts of your story to better sell your attributes. However, most interviewers can tell if you are staying genuine and will trust you more and appreciate your story if they sense that it’s truthful. Honest stories produce more powerful connections between yourself and the audience.

Connect with your audience 
Good stories create a dialogue between the storyteller and the audience. To tell a compelling story, try to relate to the audience, possibly through their values or information they already have a base understanding of. The most compelling stories will connect to the audience through their emotions. 

Prepare in advance
Preparation might include planning the main points in advance or even verbally practicing your story to friends, family, or just yourself. Preparation will help boost your confidence, ensuring your ideas and passion shine through in their best light.

Whether you’re speaking, writing, leading, or teaching – storytelling is one of the best ways to get your message across. Stories add emotion, colour, and depth to hard facts. This allows an audience to connect with the message being relayed more deeply and powerfully. Whether you’re a student, intern, graduate, or manager, mastering the art of storytelling is a must-have skill that will be useful in a range of career scenarios.

- Wendy Xu, Nxtstep Content Writer

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